What's out there? Microbial diversity, security, and the public health
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David A. Relman, M.D., is the Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in the Departments of Medicine, and of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, and chief of infectious diseases at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, California. He is also co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
Dr. Relman’s primary research focus is the human indigenous microbiota (microbiome), and in particular, the nature and mechanisms of variation in patterns of microbial diversity and function within the human body, and the basis of microbial community resilience. His work was some of the first to employ modern molecular methods in the study of the microbiome, and provided the first in-depth sequence-based analyses of microbial community structure in humans. During the past few decades, his research has included pathogen discovery and the development of new strategies for identifying previously-unrecognized microbial agents of disease. A resulting publication was cited by the American Society for Microbiology as one of the 50 most important papers in microbiology of the twentieth century. He has also served as an advisor to a number of agencies and departments within the U.S. Government on matters pertaining to host-microbe interactions, emerging infectious diseases, and biosecurity. He co-chaired a widely-cited 2006 study by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) on “Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences”, and served as vice-chair of a 2011 National Academies study of the science underlying the FBI investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings. He currently serves as a member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (2005-), a member of the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law at the National Academy of Science (2012-15), a member of the Science, Technology & Engineering Advisory Panel for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (2012-), as Chair of the Forum on Microbial Threats at the Institute of Medicine (NAS) (2007-), and as President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (2012-2013).
Dr. Relman received an S.B. (Biology) from MIT (1977), M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School (1982), completed his clinical training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, served as a postdoctoral fellow in microbiology at Stanford University, and joined the faculty at Stanford in 1994. He received an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award in 2006, was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2003 and the American Association for Advancement of Science in 2010, and was elected a Member of the Institute of Medicine in 2011.